Clayton Hee, the state senator running for lieutenant governor in the Hawaii Democratic primary, is calling a radio commercial from a union “a smear” against his campaign at the 11th hour.

Hee, who made his remarks at a press conference Friday at his headquarters in Nuuanu, suggested that the Hawaii Government Employees Union is running its spot because the candidate it has endorsed for LG — incumbent Shan Tsutsui — is in a competitive race against Hee.

A Civil Beat Poll this week shows Tsutsui leading Hee by 10 percentage points, but with 20 percent of those surveyed undecided, our pollster Merriman River Group says the race could go either way.

There are three other candidates in the race, which will be decided Aug. 9.

At a news conference in his campaign headquarters on August 1, 2014, Sen. Clayton Hee holds up a resolution from HGEA expressing gratitude to Sen. Hee for his blocking a pension tax on seniors.

At a news conference in his campaign headquarters, Clayton Hee holds up a resolution from the HGEA expressing gratitude to the state senator for his leadership in blocking a pension tax on seniors.

Chad Blair/Civil Beat

The radio spot Hee is referring to accuses Hee of misleading HGEA members and the voting public in two radio spots the candidate has run. Hee’s ads include testimonials from Madeline Neely, a member of the HGEA’s retirees unit.

In the spots, Neely praises Hee for leading the battle “to kill that attack on my retirement funds. Our HGEA Retirees Association honored Clayton Hee with a resolution for working for all of Hawai’s retirees.”

The HGEA sees things differently.

Executive Director Randy Perreira told Civil Beat late Friday that its ad is not a smear but instead “sets the record straight.” The union’s radio commercial features a narrator stating that Hee is misleading HGEA retirees and other voters by implying that the union is supporting Hee.

“Not true,” says the narrator, who ends the ad with these words: “Shame on you, Clayton Hee.”

Perreira said one of the Hee commercials is “offensive” because it uses HGEA’s name, which he described as a “service mark” or trademark protected by the federal government.

For his part, Hee believes his own ads do not represent a trademark infringement. He said he “never said or implied” that HGEA is backing him

Both parties said they sought to settle the matter with the help of legal counsel and dialogue, but to no avail. Hee says he tried to speak with Perreira, but Perreira says he never got a call from Hee.

Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui at Democratic Party convention

Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui at the Democratic Party of Hawaii convention, Sheraton Waikiki, May 24, 2014.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

The senator, who held his press conference with Neely, former Gov. Ben Cayetano and Honolulu Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro, wants HGEA to pull its ad. He described it as “negative campaigning” and a “scare tactic.”

“We want fairness,” Hee said.

For his part, Perreira said he was “very frustrated” by the matter and said Hee’s accusations “border on the ridiculous” and are an effort to garner media attention for his campaign. HGEA will not pull its ad, he said, because it would not be intimidated by “bullies.”

Earlier this week, Hee criticized Tsutsui for dodging debates and said he wanted to know why the budget for the LG’s office under Tsutsui had doubled to $1.2 million.

Asked to comment on the radio ad dispute, Tsutsui said he had no knowledge of the matter. He also said he senses “a lot of momentum” for his campaign.

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